Bacterial bioreporter detects mercury in the presence of excess EDTA

Amy L. Dahl*, John Sanseverino, Jean Fraņois Gaillard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A whole-cell bacterial reporter was used to probe the bioavailability of mercury in the presence of a strong metal chelator, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Strain ARL1 was constructed by inserting a merR:luxCDABE fusion into the chromosome of Escherichia coli. The response of the bioreporter to Hg II was monitored as a function of added EDTA. In parallel, square-wave voltammetry (SWV) measurements and thermodynamic calculations using MINEQL were performed to study the chemical speciation of mercury. The amount of electro-labile Hg II measured by SWV was similar to the amount of non-complexed Hg II predicted from equilibrium calculations. In contrast, the bioavailable fraction measured by the bioreporter was greater than the fraction predicted by either equilibrium calculation or electrochemical analysis. These results suggest that conventional chemical measurements and equilibrium calculations are not necessarily good proxies for predicting the bioavailable metal fraction. Additional factors such as kinetic effects or biological ligand competition must be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-560
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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